Monday, September 9, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Four

If you're looking for both the ultimate underdog story as well as a celebration of patriotism then Rocky 4 is the film for you. Of course while most people continue to focus on the action of the film we continue to see how the marriage of Rocky and Adrian continues to be challenged by the idea of having to love the other through difficult times. In this film Rocky almost seems to push Adrian aside in order to pursue his own interests with her once again having to let her love for him guide her decisions in a true practice of agape.

While the beginning of this blog seemed to have an ominous tone we can at least say that the film doesn't start out this way.  Early in the film the same man who fell in love with Adrian in the first film still offers his affection in ways that she has now known for years. After celebrating her brother's birthday Rocky plans a private moment for them as he has no intention of waiting another week to celebrate their wedding anniversary. In expressing his love for her we can see that she still moves him the same way she did when they first started dating with her also being just as happy with him. That's when he tells her that she still won't get rid of him as a way of reminding her that his commitment to her is the same as it was the day they got married. It's a very moving scene because we can see just how much they really love each other:

Right after this beautiful scene we see the arrival of a huge Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago who was sent to the United States to take on American's best in the professional ranks (it was the 80's). After an introductory press conference where Drago is introduced to the boxing world Rocky's former rival Apollo Creed sees an opportunity to put himself back in the spotlight by taking on Drago who was greeted with the type of hype that Creed was known for. Immediately Rocky is hesitant at such an idea because Creed is much older now and Drago is bigger and stronger than either of them. Apollo responds with a ridiculous diatribe about how boxers are warriors and how they need to be in the middle of the action because that's how they were born.

Rocky has always been led by Creed's smooth talking ways so before we know it we witness another press conference where the former champion announces that he will take on the big Russian in an exhibition bout. Creed runs his mouth in order to build the fight and Drago, who is not accustomed to the American way of promoting a boxing match, doesn't take kindly to the ways of the former champion. Eventually the match takes place between Creed and Drago with Creed actually being beaten to death by his superior foe. Even when Rocky begs him to stop the fight Creed is too proud to admit that he is ove rmatched. Of course the worst part of this scene was that Creed's wife witnessed the whole episode that should have never happened.

With Creed's warrior words echoing in Rocky's head he goes on to schedule a fight with Drago in order to avenge the death of his friend. Most people think that Rocky is foolish to do such a thing because he risks the same fate as Creed. However, Rocky did something much worse in making his decision to take on the Russian boxer: he did so without telling Adrian! Adrian actually finds out when she arrives home one day and see members of the press waiting for her in the Balboa driveway. At that moment she has no idea what they are talking about so imagine the devastation she felt when she realized that Rocky would make such a decision without telling her first

When Rocky finally returns home she confronts him about his decision and he more or less gives her an excuse that sounds more like Creed than the man that she married. Adrian expresses her concerns and fears but Rocky refuses to budge. The worst part of the scene is the look on Adrian's face when she can see that he won't change his mind. Here she is, standing at the top of the staircase in their mansion, which is a long way from the run down apartment where they first kissed and all she sees is Rocky! Regardless of all of the wealth and fame her husband now has she had always seen the man she loved and not the man who provided these luxuries. And now he was willing to risk the life that matted so much to her in order to prove a point in the ring.

Then there is the somber moment of Rocky's departure as he prepares to go to Russia to train. As he is about to get into the limousine he looks up at his bedroom window and sees a saddened Adrian looking down on him. Anyone viewing the film must wonder how he could do this to her but he departs with her looking more concerned than ever. Adrian certainly said what she had to say to him but she didn't still didn't nag him about it. She didn't threaten to leave him because after all, this is the same woman who had already proven more than once that she understood the meaning of the word commitment. She was afraid of losing him and that in itself was heart breaking. (Start at 1:33)

As the film progresses the viewer is pumped up by yet another fabulous training montage where we see two warriors prepare for what the Rocky universe will call the biggest fight in boxing history. This serves actually as an amazing distraction after Rocky's departure because we see some of the most beautiful parts of God's creation, which are two male bodies at their peak performing at such a high level. After all, creation is good and both of these boxers, as stated in the teachings of the Theology of the Body, are good.

The biggest surprise though is when Rocky returns from a run to see Adrian waiting for him. This is one of the most beautiful scenes in the series as she approaches the love of her life and lays her heart out to him: I couldn't stay away anymore. I missed you. We can assume that she is still hurt and scared but her love for Rocky is unquestioned and she would rather be with him than resent him and stay away. She also knows that she is safe to say whatever she has to tell him without any fear because she already knows of his unconditional love for her. That is why she is able to look him in the eye and say: I'm with you, no matter what.

Imagine the impact that had on him knowing that she was with him as he prepared for the biggest match of his life. There is no doubt that having her support during his training sessions as well as during the big fight helped propel Rocky to the greatest win of his career.

More important than the hero in the ring is in fact our hero Adrian demonstrating her true love for Rocky as she truly demonstrated what it means to love someone in good times and bad:

  1. First, she didn't agree with Rocky's decision to fight Drago but gave him room to do what he  needed to do even though he was putting his life on the line. 
  2. Second, she could have claimed that Rocky betrayed her by not speaking to her first when he decided to take the fight. As his wife she certainly had the right to know even what he was thinking of doing but again, she let that pass especially after he finally explained his reasons for doing what he felt he had to do.
  3. Most importantly, Adrian showed greater strength than her husband during the fight as she sat there and watched him take a horrible beating prior to summoning the strength to beat what many saw as an unbeatable opponent. Most viewers tend to focus on Rocky's amazing victory, which made his nation proud but most people fail to see all that Adrian endured.

The hardest part for Adrian was that she wasn't given the choice to prepare for what could have been a tragic outcome. Still, she was there and supported her husband because her love for him was stronger than her greatest fear.

This was indeed, a true act of agape. 

Carlos Arthur Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate